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'58 Celebration Brings Out Fans And Collectors Alike

By Ray Schulte

Fifty years after the Colts beat the Giants, 23-17, to claim the 1958 NFL Championship, Baltimore continues to celebrate the anniversary of the event that helped define the character and personality of a city.

It is hard to believe that 50 years have passed so quickly, and the celebrations over the past year have been exciting.

PressBox approached Ironclad Authentics earlier in the year and asked if the company  would participate in three "Celebrate '58" player meet-and-greet events at Mother's Federal Hill Grille. With the help of Pete Wright, a friend of many of the '58 Colts, we were able to secure the appearances of Art Donovan, Jim Mutscheller, Lenny Moore, Raymond Berry and Gino Marchetti. 

The fans thoroughly enjoyed the players' stories, food, spirits and player autographs after each session. In conjunction with the Celebrate '58 player appearances, PressBox Legends released a tribute book called "Sudden Life."

I am often asked what makes a collectible or vintage piece of memorabilia valuable. As is evident with the numerous valuable items relating to the 1958 NFL Championship game, memorabilia created around a specific event can hold more value.

The greater the significance of the event, the greater the value of the memorabilia. The 1958 Championship was and still is considered "The Greatest Game Ever Played." It was responsible for the NFL's growth and surge in popularity. NBC Television broadcast the game nationally to approximately 45 million viewers around the country.

Football fans in the '50s did not have the collector's mentality that fans have today.  Individuals who might have been fortunate enough to receive or save an item from the '58 Championship game did it for the sake of creating a memory for a lifetime. Many Baltimore Colts fans and collectors have kept their championship game items within their family for all of these years. Such items are now hard to find, so when you see something in auction from the '58 Championship game it certainly will be one of the featured items.

Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts' triumph back in 1958 was instrumental in propelling the growth of the NFL and giving pride and identity to a city which was lacking it at the time.  The memories the '58 Colts created will last a lifetime but it is always nice to have an opportunity such as the 50th anniversary to relive that moment in time.

Sports Legends 1958 Championship Exhibit

"Where did you watch the game?" Many Baltimore Colts fans responded with, "in my living room at home." Greg Schwalenberg, museum curator, with the help of education director, Dave Fischvogt, came up with the idea to create a 1958-style living room with a working Muntz television displaying the game. Museum visitors can step back 50 years and get the full experience of how people across the nation viewed the Greatest Game Ever Played.

In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to view many items from the 1958 Championship game, including:

• Unitas' 1958 championship ring -- first time on public display,

• A piece of the championship game goal post,

• Football used during the championship game,

• Jim Mutscheller's helmet from the championship game,

• Baltimore Colts marching band uniform,

• Baltimore Colts cheerleader uniform,

• Lenny Moore's 1958 contract,

• Various other Colts fan memorabilia.

In addition to Schwalenberg and Fischvogt, chief curator Shawn Herne, executive director Mike Gibbons and deputy director John Ziemann all took pride in creating this tribute. 

The Greatest Game Ever exhibit will run through June 2009. Sports Legends Museum is located in the Camden Station railroad building, next to Oriole Park.

Issue 133: January 2009